Westerville City Council unanimously votes to welcome refugees

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BY AUDREY SMITH 

   In response to last September’s Executive Order pertaining to refugee resettlement, the Westerville City Council voted 7-0 in early January to allow refugees in Westerville. 

   Officially titled as Executive Order 13888, this order includes state and local governments when deciding where to resettle refugees. 

   The resolution’s beginning statements include the intention and purpose of the order. 

    According to whitehouse.gov, “It is the policy of the United States to cooperate and consult with state and local governments, to take into account the preferences of state governments, and to provide a pathway for refugees to become self-sufficient.”  

   To fulfill the order’s demands, the Westerville City Council held a vote on Jan. 7. All council members voted in favor of allowing refugee resettlement in Westerville.  

   Craig Treneff has been a city council member for 16 years and is currently the council vice chairperson; he shares his view on the order.  

   “The [Executive] Presidential Order allowed local governments to refuse resettlement of refugees, which I thought was an unnecessary and unjust position to take,” Treneff said. 

   Even though there was a vote, Treneff explains the effects mostly were seen in the Columbus area rather than Westerville. 

   “Two hundred and fifty two refugees were resettled in Central Ohio last year, and 93 percent went to Columbus. We do not believe any went to Westerville,” Treneff said. 

   However, the Westerville council showed their support for potential refugees in the vote, and Westerville often works with the Community Refugee and Immigration Service. 

   Senior Hadia Hussien is first generation Somali, and both of her parents are originally from Somalia.

   She said, “[the resolution] will only strengthen the relationship between students and give them the push they need to be more socially accepting of others.”   

   Hussien thinks the resolution is long overdue. She provided examples of potential benefits of the resolution. 

   “I think it could help people grow more culturally aware of one another and could help those coming to a new land be a lot more comfortable with their decision,” Hussien said. 

   Kristie Cameron offers another perspective as a teacher of English as a Second Language program, which expanded to 37 new ESL students this year at North. 

  Cameron agrees with the council’s decision and said she believes providing safety to families is important.  

   “If I was in their shoes, it would be an answer to my prayers,” Cameron said. 

   Cameron said she sees how foreign students adjust in a new country, as well as a new school. 

   “They really want to fit in … A lot of eyes are opened to new things, like the value of education, that wasn’t there before,” Cameron said. 

   She knows ESL students’ integration can be challenging, but she explained North has ways present at North to help. 

  For example, Cameron said, “People think International Club is only for international kids, but it’s a bridge.”

   The annual Cultural Celebration is hosted by the International Club and is North’s tradition of sharing and celebrating students’ backgrounds and cultures. 

   Over the years, it has exponentially expanded to host the biggest celebration this year to represent 37 different countries and cultures.  

   Hussien agrees supportive programs are the next step for providing more help. 

   “Create programs to assist families into their new lives, create school programs to set up native students up with new students, and make sure people live up for what this resolution stands for,” Hussein said.